You are here

6 Inherited Health Conditions

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Will the kids get it? There's a good chance. People who suffer from IBS are more than twice as likely to have a first-degree relative with the same symptoms, according to research from the University of Sydney in Australia. "It's very common to see colicky infants whose parents have IBS or reflux," says Dan Levy, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "They may have a lower pain threshold than other babies."

Signs they got nabbed: The classic symptoms are frequent crampy abdominal pain or alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. IBS usually appears during the school years, but precursors, like colic, may be apparent earlier in a child's life. "There's also a big emotional component," says Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D., author of Mommy Calls. Flare-ups are common during challenging transitions in a child's life, such as going to school or even just attending a party he doesn't want to go to, Dr. Levy says.

What you can do: If you suspect your child has IBS, have him checked out by your pediatrician. "IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion," Dr. Altmann says. "We want to rule out the possibility that something more serious is going on, like inflammatory bowel disease." If the problem turns out to be IBS, it can usually be managed with lifestyle changes. That may mean avoiding certain foods that might be triggers, adding probiotics (the healthy bacteria found in yogurt), and/or teaching kids some stress-management techniques, such as relaxation exercises or yoga.